5 Tips for Parents from Positive Psychology
1. Test and Learn vs. Plan and Implement
How we learn is a topic that many researchers have studied. Many people think that we should first plan something, and then implement it, but the fact is, when it comes to transformational learning, you want to do the exact opposite. Parents should encourage their children to explore possibilities, and then reflect on what went well and opportunities to make changes. By taking a test and learn approach with your children, they will learn better and be able to make better decisions in the future because they will have learned from experience.
2. Create a 5-to-1 Positivity Ratio
If negative interactions and positive interactions were superheroes, negative interactions would win in a battle. This is because negative interactions are simply stronger than positive interactions. Research shows that we need to experience 5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction at home, in order to be able to overcome our adversities, bounce back from negative events, and begin to flourish. Positive interactions don't need to take up a huge amount of time, instead it can be as short as 3 seconds to create a positive interaction. According to Daniel Kahneman of the Gallup Organization, we have about twenty thousand opportunities each day for positive interactions. Smiling and giving your child a warm pat on the back takes mere seconds, but it goes a long way when it comes to their well-being.
3. Cultivate Curiosity
Curiosity doesn't kill, it cures! Curiosity is a positive emotion that recognizes in importance of facing the unknown. Researcher and curiosity expert Todd Kashdan says it beautifully in his book Curiosity; "By being curious we explore. By exploring we discover." When we encourage curiosity in our children, what we are really doing is giving them new opportunities to explore and take on new challenges. There are many ways to increase curiosity in children, one of which is to simply encourage them to seek their own answers to their questions. Having resources like encyclopedias and scientific magazines around, and a willingness to try experiments is a great way to help children explore.
4. Don't Just Label Strengths, Talk About Them!
Strengths are inherent attributes we all have that bring meaning and quality to our lives. When we use our strengths we become more animated, our energy rises, and we become more engaged and enthusiastic. Strengths are what help us accomplish our goals and live rich, meaningful lives. Expressing your recognition of a child's strength is a great way to boost their confidence and empower them to make decisions and take action. Applied positive psychology expert and researcher Robert Biswas-Diener says "spotting strengths isn't just telling your child that they are good at something, it goes beyond that. It is creating a shared language for that strength, helping the child take ownership of it, and discussing ways to developing it."
5. Remember, Behavior is Contagious!
The people around us have significant influence on our behavior. We know through research that group behavior contagion happens in all sorts of relationships and in all sorts of ways. Those who have friends that drink a lot, tend to drink a lot. It happens with fashion and even with obesity! Research out of Harvard followed 12,067 people over the course of thirty-two years. In the event that someone became obese, their friends were three times more likely to become obese than the average person. Luckily there is a plus side to behavior contagion. Research also shows that people who are friends with happy people are more likely to be happy themselves. So be sure to encourage positive and healthy relationships with your children with other children who are doing well. Also, be positive and your children are bound to be positive too!
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